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Lenten Bible Study – Day 28

Saturday, March 20, 2021- Day 28
Luke 14:28-33
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
This parable is often labeled as “counting the cost”, which is very appropriate. Jesus tells us numerous times he does not want us to be lukewarm. What he calls us to be is all in disciples. People that are willing to drastically change their lives because of their love for God. The fact is our lives should look different to people who don’t have faith. Our lives should be different because we love Jesus. This doesn’t just mean it’s a list of things we don’t do because we are Christians. In fact, it is more of a list of things we do! We should care for, love, share, and give different. We should act humbly, compassionately, and tenderheartedly. That is what the scripture is telling us, if you want to be a follower you need to be different, so before you make a decision add up the costs and decide.
I have felt this struggle recently after having a discussion in a small group. The discussion centered on an estimate that there are around 27 million slaves in the world today. The question was, how did I contribute to the slavery? We were directed to a website called where we take a short quiz to see if what we bought contributed to slaves (You should do this it is eye opening). The idea is that if you buy certain products it may be from a corporation that gets certain products from an area of the world that uses slaves. A huge problem years ago was that a vast amount of cocoa beans where from Ghana, which was notorious for using child slaves. Our chocolate candy corporations where buying cheap cocoa to make chocolate. If we buy that chocolate it creates a higher demand which needs increased slaves.
The problem is that many of our things are actually at least partially produced by slaves. It can be so overwhelming that many people do not want to bother checking before having a snack or buying shoes. We even found churches to be a major contributor when purchasing palms for Palm Sunday (JMPC does buy fair trade). While it is overwhelming and time consuming I will ask you, what should we do as believers of Jesus Christ? Should we ignore it or consider ourselves okay since we are a few steps removed from making slaves? Do we know that these slaves are children of God and are we treating them as such?
This of course is just one example of counting the cost of discipleship, we all know there are many more. However, it is a very important cost, and it is up to us to decide how we follow Jesus. Discipleship is not just something we can take part in when we want to, and Jesus is warning us of that in this parable. We must be willing to stretch ourselves to love others. We must seek out justice for all people in the world. We must give up of ourselves, so that others may see and know of our God. That is what Jesus did for us on Easter. It is in that love that we need to respond in true and unflinching discipleship.
 Jesus, give us the ability to be followers of you on a full-time basis. Do not let us bargain with you on our faith, trying to let ourselves out of the commitment. Let us be strong and live into true discipleship with you. Amen 

Lenten Bible Study – Day 27

Friday, March 19, 2021 – Day 27
Luke 14: 16-24
16Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.”19Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” 20Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” 21So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” 22And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” 23Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.24For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” ’
There is nothing worse than last minute cancellations from guests invited to a dinner party. You have planned the meal so that everyone will get enough to eat and drink. You have also planned the guest list so that the conversation will be engaging yet not too controversial. Now someone cancels. The whole event is now out of balance. Too much food and drink. Not enough conversation. So, you ask why they cannot come and the excuse is … well … lame. What is the chance you will invite that person to your next dinner party?
But you have all this food! What do you do? Some years back the people that lived next to my family had a party planned. For reasons I was never told, most of the guests did not come. So, they came over to our house and said that they had a bunch of food and plenty to drink and did we want to come over for dinner? They went to every door on the block. We all gathered at their house and had an impromptu block party! We had a great time and got to know each other. It worked out well.
That is what the Kingdom of God is like. It is a dinner party that we are all invited to. How we got on the guest list, we do not know, but we are expected to come because … well … who wouldn’t? But at the last minute we cancel. The excuses we give are lame. Too busy. More important things to do. Not sure we will like the food. The question, then, is do we expect to be asked again? Maybe not? Maybe we missed out chance.
I read this parable as the answer to the question of universality of salvation. Is everyone saved? Well, I think everyone is invited. But some don’t accept. How many times will the invitation come? Do we want to wait and find out? Or just come to dinner with Jesus right now? It’s like the invitation to Communion. Everyone is welcome, but you have to show up.
Dear God, thank you for the invitation to be a part of your Kingdom. Please know I will be there to share food and drink and lively conversation … and I hope to stay, forever. Amen.

Lenten Bible Study – Day 26

Thursday, March 18, 2021- Day 26
Luke 14:7-14  
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Unfortunately, it seems that our culture is running away from humility. Social media has exasperated this in every way possible. Youth are expected by their peers to constantly be filming and taking pictures of all their experiences. If you are doing something great you need to let others know about it. This is nothing new for young people, except that social media has expanded the scale. This is one part of humility that Jesus warns us about. This is the part where he tells us to not take the most distinguished seat. We should not be bragging about ourselves and everything we have or do. We should not see ourselves as more important than others.
However, Jesus continues to talk about humility. He tells us to not invite our friends and family to dinner, but to invite the poor, crippled, and lame. His reasoning is simple, these people cannot pay you back in any possible way. You will receive nothing quantitative from your invitation and hospitality. This is the true meaning of humility, it is giving up of yourself so that others may benefit. 
Every year around Christmas I hear a news story about someone who calls the water company and pays off random stranger’s bills. I love these stories, they are filled with selflessness and humility. I have had people give money to help children and youth go to camps and mission trips but insist on being anonymous. These actions are so powerful and loving because they don’t glorify any person, they glorify God. This is where we should understand humility, being humble glorifies God. This should be our goal in life, to glorify God. We glorify our creator, savior, and best friend. Humility should be our goal every day, it serves our neighbors, it loves our enemies, and it glorifies God… what could be better?
Jesus let us think less of ourselves and more of others. Lord let us think less of our “stuff” so we will give it to those in need. God let us glorify you in our humility. 

JMPC Sunshine 03.15.2021

Who is your favorite traitor? There are many to choose from. In the movies, we could identify Ephialtes, the disabled Spartan soldier want-to-be who leads Xerxes army around the flank of Leonidas’ “300” Spartans or the evil Saruman who betrays Middle Earth in “The Two Towers”. If we want to look at historical figures in the US, we can look at Aldrich Ames who while at the CIA disclosed the names of over 100 agents to the Soviet Union for $4.6M resulting in the deaths of 10 American agents. Or how about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who delivered classified information to the Soviet Union on the building of an atomic bomb. Or John Walker who provided code translations, the positions of US nuclear submarines, submarine defense systems and plans for military operations in Vietnam to the Soviet Union over his 17 years as a US Navy communications officer. But the one that comes to everyone’s mind is clearly Benedict Arnold. Arnold was an American military leader in the American Revolution who claimed responsibility for several military victories against the British. When he felt “overlooked” for promotions by the Continental Congress and General George Washington, he decided to defect to the British and attempted to surrender the American fort at West Point. When the plot was discovered, Arnold fled, was commissioned a brigadier general in the British army after which he led attacks on New London, Connecticut and Richmond, Virginia, including a massacre of surrendering American forces at the Battle of Groton Heights. That should make him number one on anyone’s list. But there is one “traitor” whose name is infamous. Judas Iscariot, the “betrayer” of Jesus. What do we really know about him? Join us at John McMillan Presbyterian Church on Sunday March 21 as we continue our sermon series “Strange Companions” and fill out the biography of Judas Iscariot. We will be on Facebook Live at 10am, as we stream from the church parking lot. So, join us online or here at the church.

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